What: Maurice Hooker vs. Alex Saucedo, Junior WelterweightsWhen: Nov. 16
How to Watch: ESPN 12:00 a.m. ET [midnight]
Why You Should Care: Because Maurice Hooker is a champion who has to fight a challenger in the city where he’s beloved. And with Saucedo being so talented, that could be a major problem.
Maurice Hooker is the WBO Super Lightweight Champion of the world. He’s undefeated, 24-0 with 16 knockouts, and has already beaten guys like former 135-pound title holder Terry Flanagan. And yet, while he will be introduced second, walk out with a belt draped around his shoulder, and retain his title in case of a draw, he will have one huge disadvantage that champions almost never have to deal with. Hooker, who is from Dallas, will be defending his title in Oklahoma City, hometown of his challenger, Alex Saucedo.
This could be a problem. Not only is Saucedo beloved in his hometown (the mayor even gave him an “Alex Saucedo Day” this summer) but he’s very good. Saucedo is 28-0 with 18 knockouts after opting to turn professional instead of fighting in the 2012 Olympics, and if you need proof of how fighting in Oklahoma City can propel Saucedo through significant physical punishment, look no further than his hellacious fourth round against Lenny Zappavigna last summer, a fight that impressed everyone but Hooker who said he couldn’t believe how much Saucedo struggled with “an old midget.”
Maurice Hooker is a confident champion willing to fight a hometown legend in his own backyard. Alex Saucedo is a talented, aggressive fighter propelled by the support of his hometown. On Friday we’ll see if Maurice Hooker can use this disrespect to motivate himself to a victory, or if Saucedo and his fans will prove to be too much for him.
What: Egidijus Kavaliauskas vs. Roberto Arriaza, WelterweightsWhen: Nov. 16
How to Watch: ESPN+ 6:30 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas can look good enough to justify a fight with Terence Crawford.
Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas has been consistently touted as a future opponent for Terence “Bud” Crawford, mainly due to the fact that Bob Arum promotes them both. However, although “Mean Machine” is a two time Olympian with a 20-0 with 16 knockout professional record, every time Arum tries to bring up the idea of him fighting Crawford fans roll their eyes, frustrated because they believe the only fighter on the planet capable of beating Crawford at 147 is Errol Spence Jr. a fight Arum has shown no desire to make. While Bob Arum is a promotional genius (and also a regular genius seeing how he went to Harvard Law School), there’s only so much he can do to convince the public that having Crawford fight “Mean Machine” makes sense.
So, the onus is on Egidijus Kavaliauskas to win so convincingly that Arum can get fans to want to see that fight. That journey starts on Friday, when he will be on the undercard of a fight on ESPN. His opponent is Roberto Arriaza, an undefeated Nicaraguan who has knocked out 13 of his 17 opponents, though none anywhere near as polished as Kavaliauskas. Demolish him on the biggest stage and fans will be more open to a bout against Crawford, struggle against him and fans will once again be pestering Arum about a Crawford fight against Errol Spence Jr.
What: Jaron "Boots" Ennis vs. Raymond Serrano, WelterweightsWhen: Nov. 16
How to Watch: Showtime 9:30 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Raymond Serrano can keep up the tradition of great fights from journeyman Philadelphia fighters, or if Jaron Ennis will prove to be just too good.
Philadelphia is known for the hall of fame fighters it has produced. Guys like Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins and Matthew Saad Muhammed all called the “City of Brotherly Love” home, and with his immense talent and 21-0 with 19 knockouts record, Jaron “Boots” Ennis is expected to be the next Philly fighter to bring a championship to the city.
But plenty of tough, talented Philadelphia fighters that were never close to becoming Hall of famers have given far better boxers Hell. Think of journeymen like Bert Cooper dropping Michael Moorer, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts beating Marvin Hagler, or Jimmy Young putting down and beating George Foreman when he already had five losses on his record. While Jaron Ennis is looking to be the next hall of fame level fighter out of Philadelphia, Raymond Serrano is looking to be the next Philadelphia journeyman a matchmaker regrets letting his soon to be star fighter step into the ring against.
Raymond Serrano is 24-5, while Jaron Ennis is undefeated. This fight is supposed to be a showcase for Ennis against another fighter from Philadelphia, but guys from Philadelphia without sparkling records have done a lot of damage against guys they shouldn’t have laid a glove on many times before. Jaron Ennis needs to be careful.
What: Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller vs. Bogdan Dinu, HeavyweightsWhen: Nov. 17
How to Watch: DAZN 9:00 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see how big and how effective Jarrell Miller will be in a fight he’s a huge favorite in.
For his last fight against Tomasz Adamek, Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller weighed 317 pounds. Although he won that fight easily as it was clear Adamek was shot, Adamek was once a legitimate heavyweight contender who fought guys like Vitali Klitschko. So, if Miller was willing to weigh more than all but one member of the Green Bay Packers against a fighter like that, what is he willing to weigh in against a guy that poses far less of a threat to him?
We will find out this weekend as Miller, the self-described “300-pound behemoth that throws 80 punches a round” faces Bogdan Dinu, an undefeated Romanian who has been feasting on terrible European competition in his home nation. Miller should win easily and has already taken to calling out fighters for his next match assuming he will beat Dinu quickly. The bigger question -- pun intended -- is how large Miller will be for the fight. And how effective he will be at that size.
What: Claressa Shields vs. Hannah Rankin, MiddleweightsWhen: Nov. 17
How to Watch: DAZN 9:00 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Claressa Shields can score a knockout and a Braekhus fight, to get fans interested in women’s boxing.
Claressa Shields is the most famous female boxer in America. Unfortunately, that’s not saying a lot. Boxing is already a niche sport in America, and if a league like the WNBA cannot make major strides at a time when the NBA is booming in popularity, there may be little hope for women’s boxing. Claressa Shields is the hope. An Olympic gold medalist who has already been featured on the cover of ESPN the Magazine and on shows like E-60, if women’s boxing is going to become popular in America Shields needs to lead the way. And she needs to lead the way by knocking out Hannah Rankin.
Hannah Rankin is 5-2, with far less prestige than Claressa Shields. “T-Rex” needs to knock her out, then drop to 154 to fight Cecilia Braekhus like she has said she would do in the past to get people talking about her sport. That might be unfair to her, and that might be a lot of undue pressure, but it’s also a fact.
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